The Children of Israel wherever they are in the world have, to a great extent, tried to blend in to the diasporic environment in virtually every regard and none more so than in respect of food. Food is so central to the children of Israel whether you come from a community that never lost its identity or a community that lost its identity such as the Jamaicans. All the Children of Israel have food at the heart of its social and domestic life. So, it becomes more important to make sure that we eat well and eat healthily.
The problem with much of our post-exile food is that the Children of Israel like to eat food to make us happy. This behaviour is passed on to us in childhood through our mothers. Food and lots of it equals love. In the Torah our food laws were strict and very cumbersome. Eating and the production of food was a very spiritual matter from start to finish. The law developed in the mind of the Hebrew a sense of nobility and care in what he does, even in such an intimate and essential activity. As the child of Israel has become removed from the kosher rules due to Christianity and its theology it has caused a spiritual decline in his/her relationship with food as well as himself and his or her health. The kosher procedure connects the Children of Israel with the Creator, the land and the animals whose flesh we eat. It teaches you to have consciousness of the process of how food is produced and therefore the importance of treating it with respect, least of all not wasting it.
As our relationship changed with food, so too did our objectives. Once food was taken out of a spiritual context it then only functioned as a means to satisfy a physical need. When an instinct is left to govern the human rather than it being governed by the human the gap between the man and animal is narrowed. The daily exercise, of just eating to satisfy an instinctive urge, becomes sharpened until this principle becomes the leading principle in a person’s life. We are what we do every day. And, thus we see a parallel between stripping marriages away from sex. Marriage was the ceremonial part of the instinctive drive to procreate which would elevate the union of a man and woman above that of just satisfying an urge to orgasm and lust. The degeneration of our relationship with food happened in three stages. The first stage was getting rid of the kosher laws that elevated the production and eating of food to a spiritual exercise. The second phase was eating food that was still good and healthy but without its spiritual focus and practice that elevated the person intimately involved with the production and consumption. The third and final stage was an inevitable result of the removal of the first stage because, now that food had no spiritual value whatsoever and it was just there to satisfy a physical urge its focus would be governed by the urge itself i.e. it had to be produced according to the principles of the urge it must be produced quickly but it must still satisfy taste. This is the birth of fast food, food which has no value except to satisfy a physical urge.
The greatest deception that is carried out upon those that have abandoned a spiritual element to their production and consumption of food is that, there is always spirituality whether they understand that or not. The deception comes in the form of making the people believe that what you do every day does not shape and mould you mentally, morally and spiritually. It does even more acutely than what you think you believe. Everything is spiritual but not all spirituality is good.
When you practice something every day and do so when you are younger, that habit becomes a part of your programming and thus your identity. The principles that you derive from that practice become your world view because this is now your approach and relationship with everything external to you. There is no co-incidence that the generation that has no patience and wants everything immediately is also the generation that was raised on fast food. It is impossible to teach children to be patient and thorough if, what they do every single day is exactly the opposite. If you’re creating and forming habits in children you must do so when they are young but many parents seem not to understand that it is the activities their child does that are shaping their character. If you allow the child to watch TV for 6 hours on end or play the Playstation or Xbox for 7 hours a day everyday then this is exactly the spirituality you are giving the child and that is without the added poison of the messages they pick up within the games and programmes themselves. If they practice inactivity they become inactive. If the children do not practice good spirituality there should be no surprise that they become exactly what they have been practicing.
As the impulse became the guiding principle, the quality and value of the action naturally devalued. The affect of this is to speed up the process of producing food in order to meet the impulse consumer. Or the alternative is to produce food that can be made in large amounts and stored for long periods of time without natural decay. Both processes forced the food companies to create food as if they were designing chemicals in an industrial market. Additives and preservatives were added to food and when this wasn’t adequate enough the food industry turned to genetically modified food which had the natural processes halted. This engineering of our food then gave rise to diseases and sicknesses such as cancer and other ailments. The quality of the food produced in an impulse-led market is secondary to the speed of producing the food itself. The chain reaction in eliminating the spiritual/ceremonial ultimately impacts on the human because it then skews everything in the food chain to match up with the spirituality of the human.
Eating-to-prevent-death ultimately ends up in hastening or creating a food culture and industry of poor spirituality. Eating-to-live, demands that the process of producing and consuming food is a spiritual exercise from start to finish. The impact of impulse based consumption is that it corrupts the production and consumption of food and the knock on effect is that it ends up hurting everyone involved.
When food is treated as a spiritual exercise it makes it very obvious that nothing should be corrupted in the process least of all the food itself. The halal process should mirror exactly the kosher process and spiritual aims but, as Muslims in the west have lived here they have compromised in part the aims of the halal process in order to fit in. And, as above the same principle applies, when the spirituality changes it then alters the aims of production and consumption. We then end up with a process that reflects the spiritual state of the people rather than a process that lifts the spirituality of the people. When these compromises are made the process reflects exactly the state of the people. Yes, the Muslims have striven hard to ensure that when meat is killed it is killed in the name of Allah. But, beyond that we find the spiritual exercise ends so the rest of the process is abandoned. This is effectively giving lip-service to the aims of the sharia and we do not acquire the full range of benefit offered.
The halal and tayyib process demands that not only do we strive for food to be permitted, this is the lowest standard. We must strive to make sure that everything about our food production and the consumption is to the highest level, which is tayyib, promoting health in every sphere of human activity. We should only promote foods which are natural and promote health as a minimum. The meat production must be to the highest standards, from the raising and caring of animals to the slaughtering and caring for the meat until it arrives on the plate. We should be the ones promoting localised food production and consumption. As Muslims we should be eating and promoting localised farming and even supporting local farmers buying natural and organically produced dairy and meat products. But, what Muslims have done instead is bought into the fast food industry to such an extent that they have created a faster growing fast food market (England). This has meant the production of meat is even more pressurised and animal welfare is lowered and like any fast food the quality of the food is very poor. The animal welfare lobby and the organic food lobby in this country should have had an ally in Muslims but what we have is those two groups highlighting just how low our standards have become as a community. We then wonder why Islam is attacked with such ease and we are then bewildered at the reaction of the local population. But, they are equally stunned at our response when we sound almost arrogant claiming to have the most superior way of life given to mankind when this objectively isn’t witnessed by those around us. The only people who are deluded in that situation are the Muslims. This highlights the distance the Muslims are from the real spirituality of the Islam and how they have substituted Islamic principles for their cultural norms.